VICTORY for NEOCH
Ohio voting laws enacted by Republicans in 2014 have been overturned pending an appeal.
When you go to register to vote or go to the polls, the last thing on your mind is that there may be deliberate, subtle voter suppression techniques at work to eliminate some of the ballots. A Federal Judge agreed that is exactly what was happening in Ohio causing NEOCH and other plaintiffs (The Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless) to win a lawsuit that was putting illegitimate requirements on how absentee ballots were determined legitimate and counted. The judge agreed that “technical errors”, obvious typos and honest mistakes were not reason to throw out ballots when it was still easy to determine the identity of the voter.
The 2014 laws which were put into effect by a Republican controlled Ohio Congress required that ballots be thrown out if there were errors in them. Simple errors like these I found in our research of the ballots were all thrown out by the Board of Elections at our NEOCH offices:
- A person made a mistake on the first digit of the last four digits of their social and clearly wrote an 8 over top of it. It was bold and dark, it was obvious it was an 8 but it was thrown out. The only error was the person found and corrected their own error.
- Another person put the 4 numbers of their address in the wrong boxes and went back and corrected over top. There was a Social Security # (SS), Date of Birth-- DOB, signature, and still their ballot was thrown out, again, this error was caught and corrected by the person and was still thrown out.
- A person put their SS in the State of OH box and put an arrow pointing down to the SS# boxes where it should have been and it was thrown out. It was clear what they meant, but again, the ballot was rejected by the Board of Elections.
Unfortunately many of these errors were made by Senior Citizens, many of whom were in their 70’s and 80’s and simply just wanted to vote. They walked away thinking that they had voted only to have their ballots rejected, discarded and uncounted.
The overturning of these laws is a huge victory for the voters in our state. Literally thousands of ballots have been thrown out since these laws were enacted in 2014. Many of them removed legitimate votes from sincere people who simply made a mistake. The BOE was able to determine the voter’s identity, but the ballot still was discarded. So, if a person had trouble reading the ballot or misunderstood something or made a mistake, their right to vote was lost. Voting should be a simple and easy process for everyone, especially the elderly, but has become a test of reading, writing and attention skills.
We are very thankful that NEOCH, the Ohio Democratic Party and the Columbus Coalition for the Homeless got together and fought the State of Ohio to assure that these unethical laws were abolished and that people in Ohio can rest easy knowing their right to vote is being protected.
Immediately following this victory, the State of Ohio declared that they were going to appeal this decision. Clearly, they think that a mistake on a ballot made by an elderly person, or by a person who has trouble reading is reason for that person’s vote should not count. I believe every ballot where the voter can be identified needs to count. It is essential to our democracy.
by Denise Toth
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